A Lean Guy Reads the Seattle Times


I've done this before with the WSJ… since I was in Seattle, I saw the Sunday Seattle Times, which had many articles that had some inadvertent (and unsaid) Lean angle (or so I thought).

Article 1: Snap goes deadline at Boeing

Here's a column about the recently announced delays with the Dreamliner program. I won't chime in on this, but it's an extension of the discussion that Kevin and company often have over at Evolving Excellence.

Article 2: Why build Light Rail when Buses Already Work Fine?

There's a lot of very visible construction here in Seattle, a new light rail line that will go from downtown to SEA-TAC airport. The letter isn't online, but a woman wrote to the editor, complaining about the $1.5 Billion in spending and insisted it was wasteful since there's already a bus line that makes the trip for a $2 fare. I'm guessing a rail line probably has more capacity, but it's very much a fixed asset, a “monument” if you will. Buses are very flexible, both in terms of routes and incremental capacity, right? But, then again, buses do add to traffic congestion, so maybe there's no easy answer about which waste is worse.

Article 3: $4.5 million for a boat that nobody wanted


I don't have the energy to get outraged over this. It's a story of some major “overproduction” waste driven by our corrupt Congress. There are many examples in the above article about Congresspeople “earmarking” that the military buy certain items from local companies… items that aren't needed or aren't wanted. Pure muda. Waste of overproduction.

If it's such obvious overproduction, why do we buy these things? It's not because anyone is stupid, just corrupt. It makes me angry as a taxpayer and embarrassed for our political system. There's no stated “quid pro quo” because it doesn't need to be said by anyone involved. Step 1, make small donation to Congressperson. Step 2, Congressperson gives you profitable business. Step 3, use some of the profits to give larger donation to Congressperson, ensuring future earmarks business. It's disgusting.

Article 4: Good bosses | Workers explain how their leaders won their hearts and minds


Ending on a positive note, here's a story about “good bosses.” There are stories about caring and being concerned for others. But it's not just about “being nice.” I think the Lean concept of “respect for people” goes beyond that. It's the EMS supervisor who wants people to be open about problems that need solving:

Kirk routinely shows up early to ask the outgoing night crew about any problems they had.

Sometimes respect means being demanding, yet fair and consistent:


“Shahin demands hard work and competence from all her employees,” said Diamond. “She demands the same of herself, and stays at work as late or later than most of us. She is also extremely fair and compassionate.”

Not all of the examples could qualify as “Lean,” but it certainly is encouraging whenever you can read about something other than the Dilbert-esque horror stories.

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

Did you like this post? Make sure you don't miss a post or podcast — Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.

Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

Get New Posts Sent To You

Select list(s):
Previous articleBragging About Long Cycle Time?
Next articleThe Same Kind of Different Car Company
Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.